NSW Blues coach Michael Maguire refuses to guarantee spots for State of Origin stalwarts | State of Origin

NSW coach Michael Maguire is adamant each player will have to earn their spot back as the Blues confirm a complete overhaul of their coaching staff for the next State of Origin series. After weeks of speculation, NSW Rugby League confirmed on Thursday that Maguire would succeed Brad Fittler, who stepped down in September after leading them for six series.

The Blues declined to comment on the length of the contract signed by the premiership-winning former South Sydney mentor, other than to say it was a multi-year deal. Maguire left his role in charge of the New Zealand national team to take the role from 2024, when NSW will hope to recover from back-to-back series defeats.

Maguire will spend the coming weeks and months touching base with incumbent Blues players but insists only those who begin the season in form will be considered at the selection table.

“That’s the key to bringing a successful team together,” Maguire told AAP. “I am going to make sure that everyone is in form through that period going into the Origin, because you need that. In time, the opportunities will be in front of them [the current group of players] by how they go about what they do on the field.”

That mindset will extend to long-time captain and full-back James Tedesco, to whom Fittler was unflinchingly loyal in the 2023 series despite criticism of his form. Tom Trbojevic, Latrell Mitchell, Dylan Edwards and Scott Drinkwater are other full-back options, with Maguire non-committal when asked whether Tedesco would be selected in 2024.

“To be honest, the answer is I don’t know at the moment because I haven’t spoken to him,” Maguire said. “I want to find out where he’s at, I think that’s a very important part. If he goes and plays his best footy, well that does the talking for him. If you’re playing at your best, then your belief is at the highest level and being able to bring that into camp is a big part of the one play that might be the difference.”

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NSW has announced a complete clean-out of their staff to begin the new era, with Maguire personally hand-picking each member of his team. Former Blues players John Cartwright, Brett White and Matt King, respectively assistant coaches at Brisbane, Gold Coast and the Sydney Roosters, have been confirmed as his right-hand men.

White and King were players during Maguire’s tenure as an assistant coach at Melbourne, with the latter eventually joining his premiership-winning staff at the Rabbitohs. The appointments come after former Blues assistants Greg Alexander, Danny Buderus, Paul McGregor and Andrew Johns followed Fittler out the door.

The Storm’s long-term football boss Frank Ponissi, another of Maguire’s long-term allies, has joined as NSW’s team performance manager in his first foray into the Origin arena. Along with Craig Bellamy, Ponissi is often credited as an architect of the Storm’s enduring on-field success.

“[Ponissi] is going to be a great man to have by my side, along with all my other staff,” Maguire said. “I’ve been very fortunate to get some really good quality people around me because they’re the ones who are going to help set the environment, and help the players to be at their best.”

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